Topic: Toxic Torts
A few pieces of legislation were introduced during the current New Jersey legislative session which concern hazards in homes, schools, and workplaces. These bills are not laws just yet, but they do represent the opinion of some of our legislators and they concern very important public health issues, so it’s beneficial to be familiar with the current docket.
Bill to Regulate Mold Remediation Contractors
Assembly Bill 1007 may become law; it has passed both the State Assembly and the Senate, and presumably awaits review and signature by the Governor. The bill concerns mold remediation, and regulates those who do the actual remediation work. The law would require standards and procedures for mold abatement, and certifications for people who do this work in homes and schools. Regulation and certification in this area seems to be a good idea, as purchasers of these services are often left wondering about the capabilities of those engaged in them./p>
Under the bill, the State DCA is to establish procedures for detecting and remediating mold in homes and schools. The proposed law requires the state DCA to rely upon “industry standards” developed by the US EPA and other government agencies. This is rather interesting since in the last ten years there have been numerous studies involving mold and its potential as a health hazard. It will be interesting to see if these studies are included within this standard.
Bill to Require Mold Inspections Prior to Renting Units
Another bill to watch is Assembly Bill 1006, called the Mold Safe Housing Act (S2131). This bill has not yet been passed by either house. If passed, the bill would require an inspection for mold before a unit may be rented, in cases in which municipal certificates of occupancy are required. Most importantly, it requires the State to provide temporary housing in the event that there is substantial mold in a rental until and it has not been timely abated. The State would also be able to seek recovery of relocation costs from the landlord.
The bill additionally provides that condominium associations must allow all necessary mold abatement to take place. However, rental owners who have their rental housing inspected by certified mold inspectors are immune from these provisions.
This Bill creates a substantial amount of potential liability to unit owners and responsibility and potential costs to the State. It will be interesting to see if this progresses in the Legislature, as we clearly have a problem in New Jersey with unit owners providing tenants with moldy apartments and no place else to go when the issue surfaces. We have seen onerous lease provisions and attempts to have tenants sign unconscionable releases in order to receive relocation and monetary
assistance. It would seem that some legislation is needed to help these tenants preserve their rights and health.
Bill to Prohibit Use of Pesticides in Childcare Centers and Schools
The Safe Playing Fields Act (S541/A2143) has not progressed too far, but it may; the bill currently has 27 high-profile sponsors
in the State Senate. Essentially, the bill prevents the use of lawn pesticides in child care centers and schools through eighth grade. Pesticides have certain health risks associated with them, and this bill is designed to safeguard children. Of course, if these children are exposed to these products at home it may have a limited impact—but some safety may be better than none when it comes to the health of our children.
Bill to Ban Sale of Children’s Products Containing Lead, Mercury, or Cadmium
Finally, a recent bill (A626) in the Assembly prohibits the sale of children’s products which contain lead, mercury, or cadmium. The proposed law would only apply to products meant for children under the age of six, but it would apply to products also used by the general population. Recalls would be required if such products are determined to exist and such products would have to be destroyed. Violators would be subject to civil and criminal liability.
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